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Companies suffer in silence from workplace gossip

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One Friday afternoon, rumors were running rampant around my office that our company was about to be taken over by another and that an announcement was coming at any time.

The rumors started quietly and spread quickly. Within a couple of hours, the rumors were more like pronouncements and everybody was watching the clock tick away. My workplace was paralyzed.

By chance, I ran into the company's executive vice president in the coffee room. I asked him about the rumors.



"No truth whatsoever," he said.

I explained that paralysis that existed in the building and asked if he couldn't do something to clear the air.

Fifteen minutes later, notes were being pinned up on bulletin boards that explicitly said no sale or merger was happening, nor had that been discussed.

"Yeah, like we are supposed to believe that," a co-worker said within seconds of reading the memo.

I knew right then that my good deed was thwarted. The rumor had taken on its own life and it would have to die in its own time.

Sadly, incidents like this happen in every workplace from time from time. Whether they are rooted in truth or simple fabrications, gossip on the job can be debilitating.

We used to gather at the water cooler to share gossip. Now we simply message co-workers over their computers.

Almost all of us participate in this to some degree, although clearly some of us seem to be much worse offenders than the rest.

This is a destructive dynamic in the workplace. Sure, people want - and actually
need - to talk about what's going on around them, but when does it cease to be useful, crossing the line from information sharing to outright gossip?

That's simple. When the gossip gets malicious, personal or so pervasive that it starts interfering with getting the job done.

I read about a company that is forbidding its employees to gossip and made this one of its corporate values. This is a silly notion when you are dealing with human beings.

People share their concerns and jump to conclusions in the absence of firm facts or information. It is human nature to start asking questions, the second you identify a concern in your workplace. When a company doesn't readily address a brewing concern, people are bound to talk about it themselves.

No corporate policy or office rule is going to stop that.

Companies, however, need to realize that they need to be candid and forthright with their employees as often as they can. This isn't easy because most companies aren't prepared to disseminate information rapidly, nor do they see the value.

But if it limits gossip, it might be something worth considering.
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Popular tags:

 facts  bulletin boards  businesses  data sharing  human beings  sale  employers


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